Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Report: ATLUTD, Newcastle agree transfer fee for Almiron

Leave a comment

What was once a matter of time now appears to be merely a matter of formalities and medical tests, as Atlanta United midfielder Migurl Almiron is set to join Newcastle United after the two clubs agreed a transfer fee (finally) on Tuesday, according to a report from the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

[ MORE: Sporting KC trade Opara to MNUFC for potential 7-figure sum ]

Newcastle had been long rumored as the European and Premier League side most keen on signing the 24-year-old Paraguayan in recent months and weeks, yet there appeared to be very little movement due to ongoing uncertainty regarding the Magpies’ finances.

The report did not mention a dollar figure, but Atlanta United president Darren Eales said right after the Five Stripes’ 2018 MLS Cup triumph that it would take a bid of at least $30 million, a sum that would dwarf the current MLS record for an outgoing player. That number was received last year when Bayern Munich signed Alphonso Davies for (up to) $22 million. Almiron is reportedly en route to the northeast of England to complete the necessary medical examinations before signing on the dotted line.

[ MORE: Inter Miami proposes Fort Lauderdale training center ]

Eales and Co., aren’t exactly operating from the strongest position of power, though, as they announced last week the arrival of Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez as the club’s fourth Designated Player. MLS rules limit teams to three DPs, meaning one would have to come off the books before the start of the season. Almiron was always the obvious answer to that particular problem, but Newcastle will have surely known this and used that knowledge to their advantage during negotiations.

On one hand, Newcastle feels like the perfect place for Almiron to take the next step in his career without skipping too many in between and setting himself up to fail. On the other hand, Newcastle could very well be relegated to the Championship in five months’ time and Almiron will be looking for a new club once again. Back on that first hand again, he’s precisely the kind of creative playmaker so desperately coveted by a side with only 19 goals scored through 23 games.

[ MORE: What did we learn from USMNT’s win over Panama? ]

Either way, it’s a massive win for all parties involved — Atlanta, more so and smarter than just about any other team in MLS, will reinvest that money back into the first-team squad; the perception of MLS improves every time a young player exits the league better than they were when they arrived; Newcastle owner Mike Ashley can now say he backed manager Rafa Benitez in the transfer market; and Almiron can begin the European chapter of his career with nearly a decade of high-level soccer still left in him.

Court date for USWNT’s law suit versus U.S. Soccer delayed

USWNT equal pay
Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A court case that has dragged U.S. Soccer’s administration through the mud and led to a change of leadership may drag into the summer.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

A judge in California has delayed the May 5 trial of gender discrimination against the USSF until June 16 due in part to the coronavirus pandemic. A pretrial conference was also moved to June 1.

The federation is being sued by members of the two-time reigning World Cup champion USWNT under the Equal Pay Act.

The women are requesting more than $66 million in damages.

The extra month gives both parties more time to reach a settlement which could keep this ugly case away from trial. Given the uncertainty in our world, it could of course be delayed again.

The USSF has a new CEO in Will Wilson, who can make a major statement of change by stopping the trial from reaching court.

Handicapping the Final Four of Premier League March Madness

Premier League March Madness
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Our Premier League March Madness results have been as topsy-turvy as the 2019/20 on-field campaign before coronavirus halted it last month.

Yes, the runaway No. 1 seed is alive, but the second, third, fourth, and fifth seeds have been expelled from the tournament within the first two rounds.

Voting in the semifinal round begins Thursday.

[ RESULTS: March Madness Round of 16 ]

Before we go any further, if you’re unfamiliar: To make sure you’re not missing out on either March Madness or the business end of the PL season, we’ve gone ahead and merged the two competitions. The March Madness Final Four and Championship game were due to take place this weekend in Atlanta but now you will be voting on Tottenham v. Arsenal instead of Duke v. Kansas.

Teams are seeded from 1-16 based on their current spot in the table, with Aston Villa winning the relegation playoffs on Monday to remain in the Premier League.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Before we handicap the semifinal matches, let’s take a look at where the field sits after your Wednesday voting.

No. 1 Liverpool v. No. 12 Everton
No. 6 Wolves v. No. 7 Sheffield United

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Look, all bets are off for the derby. The Everton faithful has shown up in a big way during voting, dispatching Manchester United and Chelsea.

That’s big time stuff, though Liverpool ended the dreams of our presumptive sleeping giant favorite Arsenal after beating West Ham in the Sweet Sixteen.

The Reds are going to have to not just been upstart Everton but overcome the legions of rival supporters who would happily click the Toffees’ box rather than see Liverpool gain the crown.

The other side of the bracket sees No. 7 Sheffield United looking to continue its surprising run in both the PL season and our voting.

The Blades knocked off Man City, potentially aided by the same phenomenon Everton hopes to see on Thursday.

Now they meet Wolves, who may be riding a crest of North American momentum in the form of affinity for El Tri hero Raul Jimenez.

Our prediction: Everton and Wolves in the Final.

RESULTS: Premier League March Madness Elite Eight

Premier League March Madness
Photo by Jacques Feeney/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Everton continued its upset path toward in our Premier League March Madness voting, showing its sensational support and setting up a fantastic eMerseyside Derby in the Final Four.

Thousands of votes were cast Wednesday, and the Toffees upset isn’t even the top underdog story.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Chris Wilder’s Blades of Sheffield United won a back-and-forth affair with No. 2 seed Manchester City to move into the semifinals.

That’s where they’ll meet No. 6 seed Wolves, who powered past Leicester City as if it wasn’t a challenge.

If you want to see the full game schedule, seedings and bracket, here is the post you need as the tournament will run all week long:

Monday: Relegation semifinals, final – Aston Villa prevailed, Norwich, Bournemouth, Watford relegated
TuesdaySweet 16 results in full
Wednesday: Elite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship game

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

IFAB: New handball rule can be adopted when games resume

Handball rule
Photo by Erwin Otten/Soccrates/Getty Image
Leave a comment

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) issued a letter from secretary Lukas Brud on Wednesday, outlining several changes to the game.

The “tee shirt line” handball rule may be coming to club football quicker than expected due to the coronavirus suspension of the 2019/20 season.

IFAB will allow leagues the choice to use the new handball rule when matches resume this season, also making changes to VAR protocol and vowing to review the offside rule.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

The new handball rule states that the shoulder goes to the end of the shirt sleeve or the bottom of the armpit (though obviously not in the case of a long-sleeve jersey).

For the purposes of determining handball offences, the ‘arm’ stops at the bottom of the armpit

So… get ready for baggy, longer jersey sleeves, or the increased recruitment of players with the longest armpits.

Kidding aside, the handball rule desperately needed clarification and we’ll see if this gives enough to fans and players alike.

Referees will now be “expected” to go to the screen on the field when a call is subjective, forcing the official to either uphold or overrule his initial call.

This same post says IFAB will now allow accidental handballs in the run-up to a goal in certain situations.

“Accidental handball by an attacking player should only be penalized if it ‘immediately’ results in a goal or an obvious opportunity for the player and/or their team to score a goal (i.e. following the handball, the ball travels only a short distance and/or there are very few passes).”

Well, that needs some clarification.

Back to the timing issue for the new handball rule, it seems logical that leagues would want to introduce new laws with a new season but stand-by for the decision of your favorite league.

As for the offside rule, “The members agreed that the fundamental philosophy of offside is underpinned by a desire to encourage attacking football and the scoring of goals. It was further agreed, therefore, that Law 11 – Offside should be analyzed and reviewed with a view to potentially proposing changes reflecting this philosophy.”

It’s a lot to unpack, and we’ll surely here from proponents and opponents of the changes soon. As always, implementation will make the biggest difference in how these changes are received.